Register as a Sex Offender for a Non-Sex Crime Conviction?

In Texas, it is possible to be considered a sex offender and forced to register as such without committing a sex offense. Upon parole, parolees who committed offenses that are defined as reportable convictions or adjudications under Texas law can be forced to register as a sex offender and have other restrictive conditions imposed upon them.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, upholding a trial court ruling, however, held that parolees who were not convicted of a sex offense cannot be labeled and forced to register as sex offenders without a hearing. The court stated that it would be a violation of parolees’ due process rights to impose sex-offender status without parolees being able to present a defense or confront witnesses for the prosecution.

The Texas Case of Jonathan Evans

Following the hospitalization of his two-month old daughter, Jonathan Evans was arrested and convicted of reckless injury to a child. After serving five years of a ten-year sentence, Evans was paroled.

After his release, Evans moved to El Paso to be closer to his kids. With the move also came a new parole officer who, after reviewing his case, thought Evans should be labeled as a sex offender – known as “Special Condition X.” The parole board agreed and Evans was forced to register as a sex offender and had all other restrictive conditions of a sex offense imposed upon him, including not going within 500 feet of playgrounds and schools.

The restrictions forced Evans to lose his job because he wasn’t able to travel through child-safety zones in order to get to work. Eventually, Evans’ parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison for violating conditions of his parole.

Evans filed a lawsuit claiming that his due process rights were violated when the parole board assigned him Special Condition X at a hearing that he was not allowed to attend. The trial court found that Evans’ conviction was not for a sex offense, that there was no evidence that Evans had or was sexually abusing his daughters, and that Evans’ due process rights were violated. The court of appeals agreed and ordered Evans’ release from prison and the removal of Evans’ Special Condition X status.

Sex Offender Status for Non-Sex Offenses

There are certain crimes in Texas that can have Special Condition X imposed upon a person upon parole or release from jail. For the most part, the crimes that carry this condition are sexually based, including crimes such as sexual assault, sexual abuse of a child(ren), and the possession and distribution of child pornography.

Texas law, however, also allows for the imposition of Special Condition X for crimes that aren’t necessarily sexual offenses, such as kidnapping and burglary. Although, along with committing these crimes, it must be shown that the accused intended to commit a sexual offense, such as sexual assault or indecency with a child, after or during the commission of these non-sex offenses.

Restrictions on Sex Offenders

When a person is labeled a sex offender, the consequences are severe. The restrictions placed on a sex offender last the length of the sentence, but then are often removed; however, like the stigma, some restrictions could last well beyond that point.

Most famously, sex offenders are often required to register with local law enforcement. When this is done, that person’s name, address and crimes are made public for anyone to find. The requirement to register can last anywhere from 10 years to life.

Beyond registering, sex offenders may be forced to stay 500 feet from schools, playgrounds or other places that children may gather. This restriction could place a significant limit on the location that a person may live after release from prison.

Further, being labeled a sex offender can have an impact on finding housing, employment or seeking to continue educationally.

While the ruling by the court of appeals helps many Texans who would have faced the automatic imposition of Special Condition X, there are many more who face the possibility of the serious consequences of being labeled a sex offender. If you have been charged with or otherwise accused of a sexual offense, it is vitally important to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney as soon as you are charged or have reason to believe you are being investigated for a sexual crime. An attorney can protect your rights and help you seek the best possible solution to the situation, whether that is fighting the accusations or negotiating a plea agreement.